Research Inquiries

For inquiries related to SD Mines Research, contact:

Research Affairs

S.D. School of Mines & Technology
501 E. St. Joseph Street
Suite 102, O'Harra Building
Rapid City, SD  57701

(605) 394-2493



Research at Mines happens every day of the year, involves faculty and students at every academic level, and frequently includes collaboration across the state, the nation and the globe.

SD Mines Professor Receives Grant to Explore Creation of Solid-State Battery Research Center

Research scientist Abu Md Numan-Al-Mobin, Ph.D., is part of the team at SD Mines working to bring solid-state batteries to reality.

In 2016, half a million hoverboards were recalled after lithium ion batteries in some of the popular scooters burst into flames.

That same year, Samsung recalled its Galaxy Note 7 when the same type of batteries in some of those devices exploded and burned. The recall cost Samsung more than $10 billion.

With the U.S. lithium-ion battery market expected to reach $90 billion by 2025, Alevtina Smirnova, PhD, sees great value in fixing this battery problem.

“The reality is, conventional lithium-ion batteries are not safe or reliable,” says Smirnova, an associate professor of chemistry and applied biological sciences, and electrical and computer engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

Conventional lithium-ion batteries contain flammable liquid that can become combustible when heated. Heating usually occurs due to a short circuit inside the battery. The end result in these cases is often fire or explosion. To make matters worse, the electrolyte inside lithium-ion batteries is mixed with a compound that burns the skin. In 2017, a young woman on an overseas flight received burns on her face when the batteries inside her headphones exploded.

Smirnova plans to...

Last Edited 5/29/2019 08:30:18 AM [Comments (0)]

New Tricks for an Old Dog--Wright Earns Doctorate at 71

Jerry Wright will graduate with a Ph.D. at age 71, almost 50 years after he completed his bachelor’s at Mines.

In 1966, Jerry Wright (CE 71) walked into the Civil / Mechanical Engineering Building on the Mines campus as an 18-year-old kid with an interest in engineering. Fifty years later, he came full circle when he walked through the doors again as a new PhD student.

“I had to learn a lot about stuff I never knew,” he jokes.

Any graduate degree involves a learning curve, but Wright brought a lifetime of experience to the table when he returned to Mines. His career as the leader of the Rapid City Solid Waste Division included expanding the municipal landfill to incorporate broad recycling and composting programs. Wright spent 27 years in the Army National Guard and Reserve, including a return to active duty after being called out of retirement to serve in Kuwait.  “I thank my kids for offering to co-sign my student loans,” he says with a smile. “But the GI Bill paid for my education.”

His doctoral dissertation is an extension of his career in environmental engineering. His core idea is to work with Mother Nature to conserve irrigation water by spreading compost on crop and grazing land.

The draft dissertation begins with the words “On a dark and stormy night,” an appropriate opening for a thesis tied to the hydrologic cycle, which he notes is “a natural phenomenon beyond the control of human beings.”  Putting compost to more widespread use is something Wright cam...

Last Edited 5/2/2019 10:01:41 AM [Comments (0)]

The Hillard Brothers Flying Machine

John Hillard, aloft over Custer State Park, during the inaugural flight using an electric paramotor he and his bother Phillip developed.

On a brisk fall morning at the Custer State Park airport, John Hillard sprinted across an open field with a propeller strapped to his back. The 80 pounds of thrust generated by the electric motor pushed him forward as the paraglider wing lifted over his head. In seconds he was aloft. The inaugural flight lasted only a few minutes. But it was a milestone after years of work to pioneer a commercial electric paramotor.  

Phillip and John Hillard grew up with a love of flying inspired by their father, a Navy helicopter pilot. Phillip finished his degree in mechanical engineering in 2018, and his younger brother John is in his senior year at Mines. The brothers took up paramotoring as a hobby; their training as engineers helped them identify improvements needed to the standard gas motors used in the sport. “We spent almost as much time tuning our two-stroke gas engines as we did flying. We wanted to break that down and make the sport easier to do and take it into the realm of the standard consumer,” says Phillip. 

Their fix: Go electric. Electric motors are quieter, simpler to operate and more compact and light weight.  But pioneering a new electric paramotor system didn’t prove easy.   The brothers had to overcome hurdles such as insuring battery safety, building in redundant fail-safes, designing proper instrumentation and keeping it all in a lightweight, compact system. “The cool thing about being...

Last Edited 4/26/2019 08:40:47 AM [Comments (0)]

Finding the Flame in the Flaming Fountain

Logan Kocab attaching the air intake line to the fountain casing.

The Flaming Fountain is an important component of the South Dakota veteran’s memorial site at Capitol Lake next to the state capitol building in Pierre. The Flaming Fountain is a water well that was drilled back in 1910 and completed in the Dakota aquifer at a depth of 1280 feet. The well is uncapped and free-flowing, driven by artesian pressure in the aquifer. Until recently, enough natural methane gas was produced with the water to sustain a flame, giving the fountain its name.  This flame no longer burns continuously, snuffing out within hours to days after being re-lit.

Stacy Langdeau, PE, the State Engineer and an SD Mines graduate inquired if the Geology and Geological Engineering (GGE) Department at SD Mines had any interest in investigating the now non-Flaming Fountain. Coincidentally, a methane sensor had recently been transferred to SD Mines from the U.S. Department of Energy to investigate the occurrence of stray gas in drinking water aquifers in the vicinity of fracked shale gas wells. The engineers at DOE had not gotten the unit operational, so several SD Mines graduate students in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department (ECE) took on the task. They included Md Raqibull Hasan, Saeed Shahmiri, and Sandesh Acharya.  Each contributed to solving a significant piece of the puzzle, and Sandesh was eventually able to resolve issues with the datalogger and controller, bringing the unit up to operational status....

Last Edited 4/22/2019 02:34:28 PM [Comments (0)]